Salvo 02.24.2023 4 minutes

Segregation Forever

Equality Of Races

The Biden Administration is urging states to impose race-based practices in the schools.

Should public schools treat students differently based on race? Of course not—it’s against the law—but the Biden Administration muddied the waters late last month with a “Fact Sheet” on Title VI, which is the federal law that prohibits race discrimination in public schools. Although broadly supportive of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts in the past, this is the first time the administration has mounted an explicit legal defense of racial-equity efforts.

The fact sheet pays lip service to federal nondiscrimination law but encourages public schools to employ DEI training, “cultural competency training,” and all methods to address “racial disparities within a school.” This initiative represents the administration’s response to state-level efforts to ban DEI training, curriculum, and other policies, which unfortunately have become commonplace.

The administration’s view of racial equity is that all racial groups should enjoy precisely the same outcomes in all areas ranging from test scores to discipline. Equity is demanded because, according to President Biden, any disparity among racial groups is simply evidence of “systemic racism and white supremacy.” As Vice President Harris has famously said, equity means “we all end up at the same place.”

The unfortunate reality is that in our public school classrooms, so called “equity” policies are causing blatant race discrimination every day.

In Madison, Wisconsin, the school district employs an “equity strategy” for teaching kids reading and math based on “demographic categories, including race.” Elementary school teachers are ordered to “prioritize your African American students meeting with you first and more often.” Other students, including other minorities and English language learners, are to be instructed “second.” The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, where we work, sued over this policy.

Madison is no outlier. Denver Public Schools has resolved to “prioritize and target the[ ] academic achievement” of “Black and African-American students.” Based purely on skin color, Denver schools provide “more rigorous coursework,” “a plan of action to increase their success,” and “progress toward these goals and increasing black student achievement.” Non-black students? No special coursework, plans, or monitoring.

Seattle Public Schools has taken the equity pathway in mathematics by changing curriculum and lowering standards with something called “Math Ethnic Studies Framework.” Seattle students must consider “who holds power in a mathematical classroom,” “who gets to say if an answer is right,” and whether they can “recognize and name oppressive mathematical practices in your experience.”

Other pathways to equity include requiring all students to take the same remedial course regardless of ability, canceling Advanced Placement courses, and even changing the way teachers grade to eliminate low scores, which the San Diego Unified School District recently did explicitly to combat racism. Other schools similarly embrace an initiative called Grading for Equity which, for instance, directs teachers not to grade homework because doing so replicates racial disparities. In a telling gaffe, one public high school teacher in Wisconsin admitted to parents that “slowing down the class is equity!”

But the equity push goes beyond instructional changes. It requires treating non-white students differently in other areas. Centennial Elementary in Olympia, Washington offers a “BIPOC-only” student lunch group for fourth graders. Public schools in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin offer an annual, all-expenses paid trip for black students to visit colleges. Sun Prairie also holds an award ceremony exclusively for “Black Excellence Achievement Makers” (BEAM) and is one of several Wisconsin school districts that hosts a “Dear Diary” mentoring program open only to black girls.

Perhaps the most dangerous equity tactic is the pursuit of “equity in discipline.” Kayla Patrick, a policymaker in Biden’s Education Department, claimed that “school discipline” is part of a “racist system” caused by “whiteness” and that “black girls are more likely to be disciplined…for simply being black.”

The Biden Administration is now under pressure to publish new school discipline guidance “to reduce disparities” and has bullied schools into complying with its objectives. Milwaukee Public Schools is just one of many districts that agreed to reduce racial disparities years ago, and now teachers and students face serious safety concerns. Because districts fear consequences for “racist” discipline policies (that is, any policy that results in disparities), schools are not disciplining or removing students from class when they should be. Children are unable to concentrate, because they do not feel safe.

Schools should take care not to interpret the recent fact sheet, or other statements and policies by the Biden Administration, as a green light to impose “equity” objectives. While the guidance insists that these initiatives are technically permitted under federal law, myriad real-life examples demonstrate that these policies mandate, rather than prohibit, discrimination.

Our public schools must treat every student fairly, regardless of race, and strive to equip all students for success.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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